Founder Effects Persist Despite Adaptive Differentiation: A Field Experiment with Lizards

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Science  02 Feb 2012:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1209566


The extent to which random processes such as founder events contribute to evolutionary divergence is a long-standing controversy in evolutionary biology. To determine the respective contribution of founder effects and natural selection, we conducted an experiment in which brown anole (Anolis sagrei) lizard populations were established on seven small islands from male-female pairs randomly drawn from the same large-island source. These founding events generated significant among-island genetic and morphological differences that persisted throughout the course of the experiment despite all populations adapting in the predicted direction—shorter hindlimbs—in response to the narrower vegetation on the small islands. Thus, using a replicated experiment in nature, we showed that both founder effects and natural selection jointly determine trait values in these populations.